Dida the elephant. (Courtesy/KWS)

One of Kenya's, and perhaps Africa's, largest and oldest elephant Dida has been found dead within Tsavo National Park. A tweet from Kenya Wildlife Service says Dida died of old age. She was estimated to be between 60 and 65 years old. 

"Tsavo has suffered the loss of a best-loved matriarch and the greatest repository of many decades worth of knowledge," read the tweet. "Dida the matriarch died naturally of old age."

In a region where elephants were once poached almost to extinction, an elephant living beyond the age of 50 years is a rare feat.  

"To us allowing an elephant to live its full life is something we are very proud of," the tweet added.

Sources within Tsavo conservation area say Dida could have died toward the end of September but was just found due to the vast expanse of the park.

Elephants families are led by matriarchs who are responsible for teaching the herds survival tactics such as leading them to sources of water and pasture. As creatures of habits, successive generations ae able to recall the routes to water sources long after the death of a matriarch. 

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"She shepherd her herd through many seasons and challenging times. She served as both the subject to various documentaries and an iconic tourist attraction," added KWS. 

Both Tsavo and Amboseli are home to the largest herds of elephants in Kenya. The ecosystem has also produced some of Kenya's well-known elephants such as Satao, who was killed by poachers in 2014, and Tim, who died died of natural causes in 2020.

In April this year, Tolstoy, a 51-year-old bull from Tim's family died in Amboseli. Wildlife experts in the area believe he died out of infected wounds after he was short by arrows after what may have been a crop raid in a nearby farm.

While poaching incidents in Kenya's protected areas have greatly reduced, elephants are now facing the ravages of drought as a result of climate change. 

In a recent interview with the BBC, former tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala said the country lost more than 70 elephants due to ongoing drought in 2021.